In the first several years of Watershed School’s existence, the anecdotal evidence mounted regarding the way our students developed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills through our innovative program that connects students to the community and the wider world. Yet, anecdotal evidence alone has not been sufficient to help many thoughtful parents understand the value of a Watershed School education. So, we went in search of a means to test whether or not we were, in fact, helping our students become better learners.

After extensive research, we discovered the Council for Aid to Education. This organization has administered the Collegiate Learning Assessment for several years to undergraduate institutions across the country, including some of the country’s best colleges. Recently, the University of Colorado began considering administering the CLA as an accountability measure to determine the “value added” of a University of Colorado education (read the Daily Camera article here). This is one of many good reasons other colleges and universities have chosen to administer this test. The Council for Aid to Education recently began beta testing a high school version of the CLA, called the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA). Watershed School joined a small group of top high schools from throughout the country to assess how well our educational program is preparing our students for success in college and beyond.

The CWRA asseses higher order skills, such as critical thinking and written communication.  The institution, not the individual, is the unit of analysis.  Our students performed well above the average performance level (2010-2011 adjucted percentile rank was 99 for Watershed School seniors), and in each of the sub-tests (analytic reasoning, writing effectiveness, writing mechanics, and problem solving) our mean score was above the mean of all other schools tested.

To learn more about this study and to see the list of schools that use this assessment, visit the CWRA website.